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by Erica Fischer on Feb 16, 2015

Cultivating Higher Order Thinking in the Beginning Language Classroom: Tips to Make it Happen

Last week, #langchat participants discussed a HOT topic—literally! The discussion centered on higher order thinking skills (HOTS), and instructors worked together to figure out what HOTS mean for novice learners, to discuss forms of support that encourage learner engagement in HOT, and to brainstorm ways to integrate HOTS in interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational tasks. When they weren’t circulating puns, Langchatters came to realize that, with the right support, novice students are more than capable of developing HOTS.

Thank you to all of the Langchatters who participated and to our dedicated moderators, Colleen (@CoLeeSensei), Laura (@SraSpanglish), Cristy (@msfrenchteach), Kris (@KrisClimer), Amy (@alenord) and Sara-Elizabeth (@SECottrell)!

Question 1: How can we define HOT in terms of novice learners?

Some #langchat participants expressed confusion about what HOT means for novice learners. @Sra_Kennedy asked, “Isn’t just sitting in a 90-percent (plus) classroom HOT in itself? [Students] have to negotiate meaning the entire time they’re in there.” @alenord shared her favorite definition of HOT at the novice level: “Linguistically simple, Cognitively complex” (citing @lterrillindy). Aside from cognitive complexity, some #langchat participants highlighted the importance of student creativity in cultivation of HOTS. @ShaneBraverman wrote, “I like to think of HOT in curiosity. “ He explained that instructors should encourage students to teach them the rules: “AND [students] tell me the rules. I don’t tell them conjugations, etc.” @AgilityLanguage phrased this idea in other words, writing, “I’d say [HOT] has to do with teaching grammar inductively, and contextualizing acquisition.” @MmeCarbonneau also prompts students to investigate and share their discoveries with her: “[I made] students today TELL ME how to say something in the past based on a series of examples before them. [I made] THEM figure it out.”

Question 2: What supports need to be in place for novice learners to engage in HOTS?

Participants then reflected on sources of support in students’ development of HOTS. @ShaneBraverman again mentioned the importance of curiosity: “[Students] need to learn how to be curious again.” In order to foster curiosity and risk-taking, instructors noted the need to create a safe space. @MlleSulewski wrote that students should “[feel] safe in class! [so that they are more] willing to take risks.” @espanolsrs agreed, writing, “[To a] certain extent [students] need to be immersed in [an] environment where [it is OK] to take risks and make mistakes. It encourages deeper thought.” In addition to creating a supportive environment for learning, Langchatters emphasized the need to make tasks relevant and to scaffold activities. @kballestrini felt that instructors should focus on “immediate relevancy and a situated experience which requires HOT, along with the necessary scaffolding to go along with it.” @Sralandes observed that scaffolding could involve “‘Prompts’ that lead [students] into them filling in the [missing information].” Additionally, some participants commented on the role of instructors’ behavior and attitudes in helping novice students to engage in HOT. @IndwellingLang wrote that language teachers could model HOT with enthusiasm. @maestraschemmer also acknowledged the value of “[an] observant and persistent teacher always ready with questions to deepen [students’] thinking and reasoning.”

Question 3: How do you engage novice learners in higher-order thinking for interpersonal tasks?

@ProfeCochran began the discussion of HOT in interpersonal tasks, commenting, “I’ve always thought of [the] interpersonal [mode] as [a form of] HOT in and of itself.” Instructors discussed different activities that push students to deepen HOT in the interpersonal mode. @alenord wrote, “For practice, not [an assessment,] I give my [students] ‘pre-speaking time’ to thoughtfully prepare questions for interpersonal tasks.” Once students have created questions, @CoLeeSensei recognized the crucial role of follow-up: “I work hard on ‘follow up questions’ to dig for details.” She shared a link to a game involving follow-up questions: @Sra_Stevens agreed that it is valuable to dig deeper over time: “[Ask] questions as part of the warm-up activities [and] increase the [complexity] level as you go,” and @ShaneBraverman observed that “HOT doesn’t have to be complicated, just deeper,” adding, “[Engagement increases when students] interact about topics that matter to THEM.”

Question 4: How do you engage novice learners in higher-order thinking for interpretive tasks?

Langchatters highlighted the importance of calling upon students to read between the lines in an effort to foster HOTS in the interpretive mode. @KrisClimer suggested, “Ask [students] to read between the lines, infer: ‘Why does she have gloves?’” @Mr_Fernie also encourages “discussion about readings [that involves] discussing things that aren’t explicitly written in [the] text: ‘[Why] did __ say __?’” @alenord added that instructors could push students to refine their interpretive skills by removing visual cues: “If [students are] doing listening [and] reading [tasks], [don’t include pictures] sometimes. Make them dig for meaning.” Alternatively, she suggested that instructors could “give [students] a PURPOSE for reading other than just READING. [For example:] Read to explain [the text] to someone else.”

Question 5: How do you engage novice learners in higher-order thinking for presentational tasks?

Finally, Langchatters reflected on ways to cultivate HOTS in the presentational mode. Some participants recommended teaching students how to take audience into account when relating information. @bjillmore wrote, “[Have students make a] video or write [an] e-mail to…, [asking them to] choose [an] audience and relevant information.” @TaliaGonzales2 shared an example of this task, writing, “My students read a [biography] of [César] Chávez [and] then [presented] to [younger] children on his life.” Finally, @alenord reminded other instructors that HOTS need not be cultivated in isolated modes: “I think [presentational] mode [is] best for integrated tasks. [Students read] or listen, then formulate [their] own thoughts, and share or converse.”


As @doriecp noted, “[Thinking] about HOTS takes a lot of HOTS. You all gave me a lot to chew on!” Over the course of the hour, participants came to realize that HOTS can be achieved in all modes at the novice level. @KrisClimer wrote, “My takeaway is that [90-percent of instruction in the L2] already is pretty HOT, we just need to stir.” @alisonkis agreed: “HOT is not [something] new. We [have] all done it explicitly or implicitly in our class already. Don’t be scared!” Instructors commented on the importance of a safe classroom environment that encourages risk-taking, student curiosity, and scaffolding in fostering student engagement in HOT. Langchatters recognized that HOT is a very possible reality in the novice classroom. @maestraschemmer’s realization was shared by many: “I am not expecting enough HOT out of my students! They are more than capable.”

Thank You!

Thank you to all of our participants for helping #langchat remain the “HOT-est chat out there for [world language teachers]!” (@CoLeeSensei). You can find us on Twitter every Thursday night for the weekly chat. *Reminder*: In case you can’t join us at that time, now you can also #langchat on Saturday at 10 a.m. ET – Same questions, more chat time!

Due to space limitations, many tweets had to be omitted from this summary. To view the entire conversation, you can access the full transcript on our tweet archive. If you have a topic you’re eager to discuss, send in your ideas for future #langchats so that our weekly discussions can become as relevant and inclusive as possible!

Elementary in Spanish
Erica Fischer
Erica is the founder and CEO of Calico Spanish. Her passion for teaching her own children to speak Spanish led her to create Calico Spanish. Our mission is to give all children the opportunity to learn to speak real Spanish for life.

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